Monday, June 23, 2014

Week 12 - photos

  Zr. Meier taught me a bike trick- arabesque on the bike stand on the back- last P-Day  

 Our beautiful bike ride home 

 A FHE chart for a cute less-active fam who I love
 K got interviewed by a friend about his conversion which turned into a really positive article on the University journal's popular website.. it's gone viral among members, too... we used to read excerpts from conference talks in ZHV (RS), but yesterday they quoted from his article haha. He is so cool, and we still meet with him 2x a week. 
Mevrouw Scholten gave me the painting I'm holding- she's not a member, but the mother of a non-member married to a member; we met her at a grandson's birthday party and promised to visit her and see her paintings/ knitting projects she told us about (and leave a message(; ), she's so nice. 

Photo of the backyard (and Harry Potter window sticker) by Zuster Meier

Week 12 - Groningen (last week of Transfer 1)

Groetjes mijne familie, 

Here's something sad/ unexpected: We found out late last night that my trainer aka mom aka Zr. Meier is leaving me and going to Haarlem on Wednesday! I'll sure miss working with that loving/ hilarious/ patient/ bubbly yet genuine/ spiritual li'l lady. 

This past week has been full of some hilarious moments, though-- as in next-day hilarious, in-the-moment shocking. When looking up some former investigators from the area book on Wednesday, we decided to 2-2-5 those houses (knock 2 doors on either side and 5 across the street) which turned into running into a possessed or ridiculously high on drugs man yelling at us through his window and then flinging the door open and staggering/ kicking/ reaching for us... later in the week we were stopping and talking to people on the street on our way home, and met a young Muslim Afghan man who wasn't as interested in our message as he was in cooking for (only) us- I think we'll let the Elders take him if he turns out to be "interested," especially considering how he hugged Zr. Meier twice (luckily her bike protected her). That same evening, we talked to a young Dutch man who seemed genuinely interested and gave us his address to swing by and drop off a Book of Mormon (he told us that if he wasn't home, his roommate B would be interested), but B turned out to be his best friend's Dad. Haha he probably thought he was so funny giving us a fake address, but it actually turned into an interesting discussion and an opportunity to answer lots of B's questions about our beliefs, until he kindly but very concernedly told us that we needed to dress more like the young Nederlanders if we wanted people to take us seriously- he was worried that Zr. Meier's combat boots (which she bought downtown and are very in style here) and my flower shirt/ thin belt/ dark skirt/ green coat (one of my favorite mission outfits..), and our "simple bikes" made us look Amish. Haha we reminded him that the card we had just given him had our website on it (technology-related).. he really was a nice guy though, and we'll take as a referral and stop by and say hi if we're in the neighborhood (maybe I'll debut my pioneer bonnet just for him). 

Now for our (well, ''our'' as in mine and Sister Wood's- who I'm sure is awesome (haven't met yet), it's just sad to see Sister Meier go so soon-) new miracle onderzoeker: On Sunday, a cute as can be Groningen-native 18-yr old girl walks into Church and tells us that she got back on Wednesday from spending her senior year of High School in Utah where she went to church every Sunday, and wants to meet with the missionaries asap- she doesn't want to wait and lose this feeling (her parents aren't too fond of the idea, though). She told me that she learned how to be truly happy and have fun while still respecting herself, and when someone asked her if she was a member in Sunday School, she said "nog niet" (not yet). Wow. And J, the young hipster musician texted us when we were trying to set up an appt. telling us she's really busy with exams but that she's planning on coming to church this week (without us mentioning church), and T, her mom, loved the BoM with Donny Osmond's picture, testimony, and signature in the front cover that we brought by for her ("oh, that ''lecker ding" Donny, what a collector's item, wow can't wait to read what he wrote, oh, that "lecker ding"). And J (onderzoeker) and her son came to church with their new carpool buddies G (a little less-active, we meet at her house) and her daughter. Ah Groningen is blessed. 

Love you all!
Zuster Riley (: 

**lekker... oops I spelled it the German way, lecker. Btw, "lekker" means tasty/ nice/ delicious/ enticing.. used to describe, food, the weather, and apparantly Donny Osmond (;. 

--Zr. Meier wants me to make her raw vegan brownies today before she leaves (she's getting transferred! :( ), could you please send me the recipe? 

--I have a late birthday postcard for Isaac and threw away his address after writing him from the MTC (assuming I would get it again once he replied and see his return address but still waiting for that haha), what's his current address? 

 One more thing: look up on "That We Might Be One: The Story of the Dutch Potato Project," it's really touching, and I know Familie Dallinga that is mentioned in there, and Broeder Weenig who is the first Dutch speaker (wearing a greet jacket with a blue scarf and has brown hair, he's in the bishopric in wijkgroningen)!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Week 11 - Groningen

We took the elders with us to joint teach K, and he took us to see the flowers near his house! 

Hairless cat and G's mom, Zuster B (a member and so sweet, always tells us "mooi gebet" and "je ruikt zo lecker")

Julia's pasta for dinner on the long train-ride to Cappella aan de Ijssel, yum

Hoi mijne geliefde familie~
As you can tell by my subject, I'm pretty excited about Nederland creaming Espana (formerly ranked #1 aka supposed to be the best in the world) 5-1. Also surprised. And you could say this little country is pretty excited, too! Zuster Meier and I decorated the outside of our house with orange flags, a little Nederland flag, and window stickers, which is nothing compared to the orange flooding other neighborhoods. Oranje just can't let this big win go to their head and lose to some rugby-playing country like Australia now...

Because of a zone conference this past Saturday in Rotterdam with Elder and Sister Boom speaking, Zr. Meier and I slept over Friday night with the sisters in Capella aan de Ijssel, and it was driving us crazy hearing the cheers from the neighbors, but not knowing the exact score. 

The world cup may be a macrocosm of what's happening in Groningen- lots of exciting surprises. For example, we had two contacting "power hours" between language study and lunch which were successful. Zr. Meier and I were knocking a neighborhood near our house that seemed to have been knocked before ("yeah, we've seen you, and heard of that book"), but I thought it'd be great to give them a second chance/ plant some more seeds, so we kept going, and suddenly this cute hipster JoVo was like "hey, I know you guys, Sister Hudson (former Sister in this area) is one of my good friends, come on in, let me grab you something to drink and tell my mom!," and she told us that she'd come to church a few times and to "that Thursday night thing" (institute) and just got really busy after a while and lost contact.. but she initiated setting up a return appt. and both she and her mom were so cool! 

Then, the next day, we stopped by M and S, two onderzoekers who I've only heard about and never met, because apparently they suddenly disappeared a while ago and we've been stopping by regularly when we're in the area, and both of them answered and explained what was going on and set up return appt.s! 

Elder and Sister Boom are so classy, inspiring, cool, and wise, and everything that a Dutch couple should aspire to be! I loved being spiritually fed by them at zone conference. 

Also, M, who we meet with twice a week and is progressing so well set a doopdatum for October! Which is so exciting for her, but sad because Zr. Meier will be home by then- woah. (M actually had felt good about June 14, but after talking to her peer mentor and family, decided she should wait until after Summer to jump into anything...)

Happy Father's Day Dad, and 21st (!!!!) birthday, Isaac! I'm doing great here, don't worry about me, and Groningen is the place to be. 

Met liefde,
Zuster Riley 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Week 10 photos

Groningen train station! 

My eyebrows and Zr. Meier! 

Is this the same promised land..?

 Learning how to play the traditional Dutch game "school" with one of my favorite families 

 After-church picnic with Zr. Meier in the Keuken (kitchen)!

 Zr. Meier & I left our bikes at the station and we usually transport our groceries in our fietstassen, so I suggested we use our carry-on suitcases.. 
 On exchanges with Zuster Clement! 

View from the Leeuwarden appt. 

Week 10 - Groningen

Talking about the ever-changing weather has proven to be a good conversation-starting technique here, so why not begin with that? We went from biking home in the pouring rain bundled up in thermal tights, two jackets, gloves, and a hat on Friday, to ending Stake Conference a half hour early because of the 32+ C weather and no AC... I haven't complained (noticed) the heat yet though, because I love it- I guess my two years in Niceville (or Guam) make me a true sun-lovin' FL girl! 

Some highlights of this week include almost getting mauled by a Hunger Game-status dog one evening, but our bikes/ being protected by the Lord won (we just biked as fast as we could without looking back [but could still hear it], and when we turned a corner, it was gone); J feels like she's making progress and really likes the Restoration story but scares us by checking us with the all-reliable source of truth: google (she made the astute observation that people don't always have the nicest things to say about us! We encourage her to use even more reliable sources, such as prayer); went on exchanges with our cool STL Sister Clement in Leeuwarden and talked to (and gave cards to) really cool people- including a catholic lady with a huge dog who misses living in Amsterdam in the good ole' days before the world got crazy, a young adult on the bus from Vries who told us all about the language's history and thinks it's really cool what we're doing, and a piano tuner who gave us his business card aka contact info, but later told the Leeuwarden Sisters over the phone that he was a lot more interested in the Sisters personally than in their message, a young Christian dad with two kids who we talked to for a good 15 minutes about the Book of Mormon and was really close to having us drop one off later, but then decided he knew what that entailed and didn't want to get roped into anything, and Sister Brown (I exchanged with her)'s bike also got towed at the station before our very eyes right as we got there; After meeting with J (board of Christian fraternity, we meet at their cafe/ hang out/ study spot building), his friend M who works there asked if he could sit down and wanted to know what we were doing and wanted to know more about het Boek van Mormon- he picked one up at the missionaries' table downtown on King's Day because he saw it was about Jesus Christ- and we laid out the whole Restoration and gave him some favorite chapters to read (we wrote down Alma 32 and Moroni 7 if he needs a good place to start), and he is so nice and cool and good. Speaking of J, we talked about temples, and with doop voor de dood (baptism for the dead) he brought up the parable of Lazarus and Abraham in Luke 16 which we related to Alma 34, and he said that while he recognizes the positive effects of physical baptism such as internalizing the commitment, he has a hard time believing that it is a requirement for salvation- and admitted that that is the biggest thing keeping him from baptizing into Mormonism, but he does think Mormons do a great job of living their faith and wishes more of his friends would understand and live their beliefs similarly. He is so cool, too. We had stake conference this past weekend, and Saturday M joined us for 7.5 hours (including 2 hr each way travel and two sessions) which was great, and on Sunday we heard from Pres. Teixeira, Elder Anderson, Sister Reeves, and Sister and President Uchtdorf via Western Regional Europe broadcast from Bern, Switzerland. They talked about decisions and how one family can make all the difference (which I've totally already seen here- the coolest family in our ward has 9 really cool and successful and active in the Church kids, including the youngest who is our bishop [another son is the Rotterdam Stake Pres., the mom was found on the doorstep by Elders when she was 24]) and to 'stay true to your testimony and hold on a little longer'.

One of the saddest things is meeting with part-member families who want so badly for their spouse to embrace the gospel with them- and it always amazes me how people are not afraid to open up to missionaries and tell us so much- but it's great talking to them. K is so strong and asked the Elders if he could go on joint teach with them after being a member for a week, and we still meet with him and teach him twice a week- I love how he thinks, and it's so interesting the scripture verses/ ideas from talks that stick out to him. A classmate of his, who is a journalist for the University newspaper, recently interviewed him which is turning into a really neat article that I think students will find non-threatening and interesting about the former atheist and current philosophy student's sincere and honest search for true answers. Zuster Meier is so patient, fun, scripture-savvy, has entertaining stories, has the same taste when playing matchmaker with the JoVos/ our investigators,  and loving, it's great. There are now two sets of Elders here in Groningen- one, Elder Lind, is from Tallahassee- Florida represent (besides an occasional missionary from Brazil/ New Zealand/Taiwan/ Belgium/ Canada/ Netherlands, eeeveryone else is from Utah)! 

Love you guys! Ah Madi, you're home! K has a really cool friend W (I mentioned him before, he sometimes listens in and reads and smokes in the corner) who has great shoes and hair and is a ridiculously good (Isaac Riley status) pianist and he's an identical twin! Which automatically makes him 23549x cooler! 

Met liefde,

Zuster Riley (:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Week 9 - Groningen

Hoi! Happy JUNE!
Lots of spread out appointments = lots of biking (or sometimes public transportation), and it's been colder and rainier this week, but lots of spread out appointments are still lots of appointments which is always great.

On Thursday we met with J (and talked briefly with his two suave college roommates) who is the head of a Christian fraternity here, he's studying to become a doctor, his dad works for the forestry so he has lived everywhere from Austria to the Solomon Islands, he's extremely knowledgeable about the Old Testament, he accepts the BvM as scripture until he finds a reason not to just as he did with the Bible and came to know of its truth, and he likes to play devil's advocate to keep the discussion going (even if he later tells us he doesn't feel that way). 

We went to eat with H and B (she sings in the band and also works for a local radio talkshow) who are the coolest Dutch hipster musician members ever (I mentioned his band, Harm's Fork, in the last e-mail -they're always touring local towns to perform), and are originally from Vriesland which is a Northwestern county of the Netherlands where they speak this crazy Vries dialect (more of its own language from what I hear). They performed their version of the 13th Article of Faith put to music for us ("...the admonition of Paul! Yeaaaaah, the admonition of paul!") which I personally think should replace the primary article of faith songs, and H is working on writing music to which he will put the lyrics of "Sunshine in My Soul Today" and "Who's On the Lord's Side, Who?" (reminds me of Walford Griffiths!) which is awesome because most of his band/ audiences are not "geloovig" but still appreciate the powerful lyrics. They are so fun and cool and themselves and love the gospel so much. 

We had a lesson about temples with K (recently baptized!) and his friend S who is Jewish and has sat in on lessons before- glad we cleared up with S that proxy baptisms still give those people the choice to accept, because he'd heard rumors that we claim i.e. that Anne Frank is a member of our church now, etc. Speaking of K, he's so great and the ward loves him- he stood up in testimony meeting yesterday and said "goede morgen, mijne broeders and zusters" and everyone started cracking up because they were smiling so hard because they love him! 

I had told M about testimony meeting a week ago and she's been really excited to get up and share hers- in fact, after our lesson on Wednesday, she asked if she could practice on us, and whipped out a paper where she'd typed up ("only took me about half an hour to write") a sweet testimony about the "veranderungen" she's feeling in her life, and the peace she feels at church, etc. We're putting together a baptismal calendar with her where we plan when we'll teach her all the lessons which she really likes because then she can she how much she's learned and how ready she really is. 

I'll have to take a picture of G (Indonesian gift-giver onderzoeker)’s two hairless cats for you mom, haha, sometimes during a lesson one of
‘em will jump up behind me on the couch and start eating my hair, it's a pretty scary feeling. Also, the illustrated BvM stories in Dutch really came in handy when reading about Lehi's dream with him, so thanks for that. 

On the way to a service project at a member's house (had 3 this week, they take weeding very seriously here) we met and talked to S, a passionate former-pro tennis player Christian from Nigeria who invited us to his bible study and wants to come to Church sometime. He initiated the convo at the bus stop because he saw my nametag that says "Jesus Christ," and said it was awesome to see someone else "preaching the word."

We also met with J from Curacao, who has been meeting with the Sisters for months now, and has been earnestly seeking the truth for over 7  years (she actually stopped the missionaries who taught weekly lessons to her neighbor to come teach her) but is sooo busy with her full-time home day care and she sometimes gets caught up on questions that don't matter quite as much ("who really is Jehovah") as others ("was Joseph Smith a prophet?), but she is great and it's so neat to hear how she'd been watching the Sisters walk past for weeks and noticed something different and thought they could be helpful and interesting to talk to. 

Congrats on the Colonel position Dad, on the self-built raft and becoming a terrible teenager Josh, on completing seminary Rachel (I know you're devastated that it's over, but you'll still see Chris on Sundays and can get up at 6:30 to study like Zuster Riley!), on an amazing life and job and host fam and experience in Russia Madi, on being a beastly missionary Isaac, and on a long memorial day motorcycle ride Mom. 

Did you guys do anything besonders for Hemelvaart? (Ascension Day holiday on May 29) 
Ik houd van jullie!

Zuster Riley (: 

P.S. We're encouraged not to use full names when telling stories about specific people, but some common Dutch first names include Baukje, Veerle, Noortje, Heijndert, and last names De Jonge and Hooijenga- just so you can get a feel (:

Week 9 - photos

 Q, a member from Nigeria, who has some mad cake-making skills! 

 Bikes are pretty popular here... 

 LOL at how many more open car parking spots than bike spots there are downtown! 

 Stopped by our senior couples' appt. with some Groningen wildflowers and a card for Elder Romig's 65th birthday, and check out their living room view!

 Zuster Meier introduced me to her favorite "notenwinkel" (nut store) downtown last P-day, and it is heaven: every nut (and seasoning) and dried fruit you can imagine!

 New proselyting jumpsuits that say "Cray"

 Love this town!

 Snapping a quick selfie at a red light (bikes have their own lanes and traffic lights here! ) 

Fancy looking sorbet/ fruit "toetje" thanks to an awesome member 

This is pretty funny- remember when we were touring the White House in March and Pres. Obama happened to be in Amsterdam? Well, he stopped in Belgium for 22 hours, and Zr. Meier saved this- they printed the front page of every single newspaper in English for him, and every article is either kissing up to him or bragging about Belgium!